What: At the 1893 Chicago Fair, skillful drawings by Princeton undergrads were showcased in two frames, one for scientific illustration, below, and one for mechanical drawings, which featured a drawing by Wilbur Chapman Fisk 1890, at left.
The idea of showing off Princeton at the landmark fair (attendance: 27 million) originated with Frederick Willson, a professor of technical drawing. His alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic, garnered attention with a similar exhibit at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris.
At Chicago, Princeton also exhibited portraits of its presidents and alumni and items that became the core of today’s Princetoniana Collection. Unfortunately lost is the relief map of campus showing every building and tree.
Twice as big as Yale’s, Princeton’s exhibit was sited prominently between Harvard’s and Columbia’s in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. The college was publicly making the case for itself to be considered a university, a step taken officially three years later.
Modern Princeton embraces studio art, but only “industrial” drawing was taught on campus 120 years ago. Some student artists joined the Princeton Sketch Club, copying plaster casts of Greek sculpture or going outdoors to draw landscapes, as well as cartooning for the Tiger or Bric-a-Brac.
Where: Class of 1935 Room, Mudd Manuscript Library
More photos: Princeton at the Columbian Exposition
Photos by Ricardo Barros.